Salutations, humans! It’s been some time since I addressed the less interactive forms of art and culture that I so enjoy, so let’s take a break from all these newfangled computery games and see what ol’ EWE has been reading lately, shall we? Well, not everything – after all, if I’m ever NOT reading something, I start to get the shakes – and not just my normal, quaking-with-seething-rage-and-malice shakes. And speaking of things that enrage me…
You know, it’s kind of a shame that I read this one several months ago and am only now reflecting on it here. I have tremendous respect for Bob Woodward as a journalist and author, and from a technical and critical standpoint he is strong again here. The book is thoroughly researched and documented, and Woodward demonstrates as he has since Watergate why he is possibly the seminal presidential historian of the modern age. So what, you may ask, is my problem? Simple – none of this makes a difference. There isn’t a whole lot in this book that wasn’t already known or suspected about the tangerine ball of yak shit occupying the White House – Woodward just backstops and adds even more authenticity to what we already realized. And yet…nothing came of any of it. It was in the news cycle for a hot minute, and then it was gone. In any other era of American history, a quarter of what is in this book would have all of Washington falling over themselves to be the first to the White House with torches and pitchforks, but the con artist in chief has made the surreal into the same-old, same-old. If you are a fan of Woodward or just feel like being even more angry at and ashamed of your country, it is a well-written book. Just don’t hope for anything to ever change.
As someone who has worked on both sides of a criminal courtroom, I have a complicated view of the role that law enforcement plays in the criminal justice system. I grew up wanting to be a cop – specifically, in the FBI. Winding up as an attorney, I first worked in a prosecutor’s office, and since have worked as a public defender. I have absolutely nothing but respect for the job that police do – but that respect is distinct from the reverence that some blindly have for them. Cops are first and foremost human beings – just as flawed and varying and multifaceted as all other human beings. And just like all groups of human beings, some are subject to racist and biased tendencies – both towards the people they are supposed to be policing, as well as toward one another. Author Matthew Horace – as a 30-year veteran of policing and as a person of color – has experienced this first-hand on both fronts. His clear and concise assessment of the problems involving race that have plagued policing for generations is equally mixed with a strong vision for how they can do better, and why they have to do better. It is a very enjoyable read – even for those that aren’t involved in the criminal justice system – but should be required reading for anyone that is, especially current or aspiring police officers.
Ta-Nehisi Coates takes a wider look at race in America than merely from the perspective of policing in his collection of essays looking at the years of the Obama presidency, at first with the sense of hope and inspiration that led him to believe that perhaps a new generation in America had turned a page, if not outright closed the book on the incredibly ugly history of how black Americans have been treated since the first slave ships arrived in the 1600s. What Horace’s experience as a police officer lent to his direct, blunt message about law enforcement, Coates’ incredible talent as a writer infuses his work with poetry and lyricism – it makes you feel intensely. And feel you will – as the sense of hope that was the initial reaction to Obama’s election gives way to the visceral and ugly backlash of racism and white supremacy that ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Still, while it truly is the titular American tragedy that it claims, some of the best works in history have been tragedies, and Coates is one of the most gifted writers I have read in some time. Read this, and wonder at what we had, and lost, and hopefully will find again.
So this one can’t really be called a review because I am still working on it – but it’s a seminal work on the nature and structure of evil written by a clinical and forensic psychiatrist; is there really a doubt about whether I’ll like it? Dr. Stone first published his original scale of “categories of evil” to sort forms and types of murder in 1993 and has since updated it to include 22 categories, based on his hundreds of case studies. My favorite part so far? He acknowledges that this wasn’t the first attempt to create a categorization of evil – he credits that to Dante’s “Circles of Hell” in the Inferno portion of his Divine Comedy. Now THAT is sourcing your reference material!
That’s it for tonight, fleshbags! Now go read something! I mean, besides this. – EWE